Lucinda Williams: A Guide to Her Best Songs (2023)

Lucinda Williams' iconic fifth album,Car wheels on a gravel road, defined Americana, but it's just one peak in a career that has spanned 20 round-trip years since then.Danny Clinch/Courtesy of the artist hide title

toggle caption

Danny Clinch/Courtesy of the artist

(Video) A Song For You - Lucinda Williams

Lucinda Williams: A Guide to Her Best Songs (2)

Lucinda Williams' iconic fifth album,Car wheels on a gravel road, defined Americana, but it's just one peak in a career that has spanned 20 round-trip years since then.

Danny Clinch/Courtesy of the artist

To paraphrase one of her most evocative lyrics, there's something about what happens when you hear a Lucinda Williams song. The simple yet cultivated beauty of her phrasing style draws you in, but it's another quality that turns a novice listener into an ardent fan. It is the sensation of seeing something grow like a flower on a vine: a memory, a fully developed image, the unfolding of one's inner life. Williams creates words and melodies that seem to originate in the listener's own head, capturing the way lost observations and dreams of construction intertwine to become the stories we tell ourselves and others. Their songs recall the way William Carlos Williams (no relation) described the task of writing poetry: "We are not putting the rose, the only rose, in the glass vase by the window - we are digging a hole for the tree - and as we dig, we disappear.

listen to the songs


'I Get Mad Too': Lucinda Williams Opens Up About Her Politically Charged New Album

(Video) Can't Let Go

Williams, who throwstheir 14th studio album good souls best angelsToday, he was born for this process. Ella Miller's father was, in fact, a poet and literature teacher, and after moving to the Deep South as a young woman, she modified the family trade to become a singer-songwriter. Initially a folk singer, Williams emerged in the late 1980s in the footsteps of a group of artists (Rosanne Cash, Steve Earle, Rodney Crowell, Lyle Lovett) who ventured into rock and roll with legacies of music from estate. A critical and songwriting choice who rose to fame when Mary Chapin Carpenter had a cross-country hit with her song "Passionate Kisses" in 1993, Williams became a true legend with the 1998 release ofCar wheels on a gravel road,a perfect work of observational storytelling that defined the nascent American genre and instantly transcended it, for no one could write so personally, it seemed, and with such flair to reach the souls of fans. I remember when I first woncar wheels- an advance copy transferred to cassette by a friend who knew Williams, the song titles written on the cover in my friend's neat handwriting. I put the tape in my portable stereo in my kitchen in Brooklyn and it didn't come out for a month. Every night I listened as I made dinner, my lonely thoughts filtering through Williams's voice like twilight through the back window of my row house.

Williams' testimonies of surviving despite hardships and missed opportunities, and her elegies for absent friends and lovers, connect her to the blues, the way she first fell in love. From country music, she learned the practice of turning glimpses of the private—a bubbling coffee pot, the lines at the corners of a loved one's eyes—into metaphors through which life is revealed. She from rock she took freedom, an obsession with self-determination that defined her personality and her career practice of doing exactly what she wants, market demands be damned. She brought these influences to her own sound, as she incorporated New Orleans rhythms and a classic rock attitude, working with bands that could move within her greasy grooves. She prefers hot guitarists as dialogue partners. She always keeps things real: her songs sound like what people wish they could say to each other, and only sometimes do.

car wheelsit was Williams' fifth album. It's just the highlight of a career that has played out more like an Appalachian mountain range, with breathtaking climbs and descents into deep forests and ravines, than the flat roads of her native delta. To really understand the Williams back catalogue, start withcar wheelsand continue back and forth. Devoting time to the peace-seeking laments of 1992 is crucialsweet old world, the daring sensuality of 2003world without tears, and the increasingly raw rock mantras that typify the sound he's cultivating now, at 67. With a look back that recognizes the boundaries of musical categories, an immersion into Lucinda Williams' catalog reveals that she is spiritually in line with challenging originals like Patti Smith, or indie heirs like Katie Crutchfield and Alynda Lee Segarra, just like her American counterparts. Above all, Williams is a unique artist with a decidedly personal voice that, for many people, feels right at home.

Here's a playlist for those who already love Lucinda Williams and those who want to know more about her.


"Car Wheels on a Gravel Road"
Car wheels on a gravel road(1998)
An impressionistic account of a runaway childhood given to her by Williams's academic father, the title track of her album's masterpiece contains everything that is good about this songwriter: resonant detail, a unique yet relatable perspective, and deep sentiment that it arises in everyday conversations like humid summer vapor.

"Passionate kisses"
lucinda williams(1988)
The Mary Chapin Carpenter version earned Williams a 1994 Grammy for Best Country Song; her own accent as fragrant as Mick Jaggerkill hopede Finch Scout.

"Sweet Old World"
sweet old world(1992)
Every great songwriter has a ballad that everyone would love to play at their funeral; this is Williams', a melancholic ode to the human tenderness that makes life worth living, and accepting with such difficulty the death of a loved one.

(Video) Lucinda Williams: NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert

Car wheels on a gravel road(1998)
From Slidell, La. In West Memphis, Ark., Williams pursues the happiness a traitor stole from one of his fiercest and most defiantly successful rockers.

The 2001 album with this title track was sonically smooth and deeply sexy in tone, never more than in this pheromone reverie, the epitome of Williams' erotic expressionism.

"Fruits of my labor"
world without tears(2003)
Williams transforms the classic slow blues that so often inspired her into an almost psychedelic daydream, like The Beatles' Strawberry Fields and an Anne Rice vampire romance, in this missive from a wealthy woman to the lover who met her when.

"Are you OK"
Empathy for the lost and outcast permeates Williams' songwriting, and this gentle, secular paean to someone who has disappeared conveys it in heartbreaking measure.

"Soulless Man"
good souls best angels(2020)
Williams has evolved into a powerful protest singer, and she's never been bolder than in this Springsteenesque attack directed at Donald Trump.


"They changed the locks"
lucinda williams(1988)
This Barn, one of Williams' many songs about taking back power in the face of abuse, is catnip to other rockers: Tom Petty, indie mainstays Silos and Australian country maverick Kasey Chambers have covered it.

lucinda williams(1988)
Another of his essentially flawless Rough Trade debuts, this meditation on the need for time alone with the imagination is an artist's manifesto that has informed Williams' career and nourishes any creative soul who listens.

"Something About What Happens When We Talk"
sweet old world(1992)
The originality of Williams' mind shines through in this vulnerable ballad about the aphrodisiac charge of meaningful conversation.

"2 Kool 2 Be 4-Gotten"
Car wheels on a gravel road(1998)
"Junebug vs. Hurricane": Williams saw this phrase scrawled on the wall in a photograph from Birney Imes' bookjuke setand expanded it into a song about the glories of those makeshift country halls. Since then, others have named his memoirs, blogs and cocktail parties after him, and even tattooed it on his arms. His language resonates.

(Video) Good Souls

"Get Right With God"
Gospel music is a central, if little discussed, inspiration for Williams. Here he makes the connection clear in a compelling account of faith's relationship to daring and risk. The song inspired one of his most amazing vocal performances.

"Don't suffer me"
Williams is a master of parataxis, the poetic technique of stringing together short sentences in what literary scholars call "iconic order" (think Biblical Beatitudes or Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone"). Here she uses an almost heavy metal musical approach to serve him, her lyrics embodying a seduction that is truly a cry for spiritual liberation.

"If my love could kill"
Ghosts of Highway 20(2016)
Although her songs run the gamut of human emotions, Williams is often depicted as a sad woman, and indeed, she has always faced grief steadfastly. Never has this process been as personal as in this mourning song for the loss of Alzheimer's. by her father and lifelong mentor, poet Miller Williams, set in a beautiful arrangement with Spanish accents.

"Little Angel, Little Brother"
This sweet old world(2017)
Williams reinvented the 1992ssweet old worldthrough new recordings in 2017, the songs reinvigorated within new arrangements and by her more worn, even powerful voices. The highlight is this painfully compassionate expression. of love and loss, a song for those who care about someone they cannot save.


"I lost it"
blue happy woman(1980)
The original version of a song that became a fierce rocker incar wheelsit shows Williams' fundamental connection to the music of Louisiana, here embodied by a Cajun fiddle and a two-step rhythm.

"I envy the wind"
Much of Williams' work comes to life in deeply shadowy and very private worlds, but this is her secret pop classic: lyrics that imagine nature itself as a lover's companion complement the song's unleashed melody to make it timeless. Elvis or Billie would have sung this song if they could.

"Those Three Days"
world without tears(2003)
Few writers of any stripe can match Williams when it comes to brutal honesty about the violence of desire. This genre noir and country confession assesses the scars adventure can leave on a vulnerable heart, and the rawness of Williams' voice is remarkably harsh.

"The Temporary Nature of Every Precious Thing"
Where the spirit meets the bone(2014)
The first two lines of this slow gospel vamp sum up Williams' philosophy and artistic motivation: "The temporary nature of anything precious, which only makes it more precious."

"Soldier's Song"
Perhaps his most chilling song, this loose track charts a fighter's last moments on the battlefield against the beautiful mundanity of his family's daily activities at home.

(Video) Essence

"We've come too far to turn around"
lost gardens(2018)
Facing pain, believing in joy, investing in survival: this transcendent collaboration with octogenarian saxophonist Charles Lloyd and his band The Marvels captures everything that makes Lucinda Williams an essential companion on life's journey.


1. Lucinda Williams - Drunken Angel
2. Lucinda Williams - Are You Alright?
(Amanjot Babrah)
3. Lucinda Williams - Righteously (album version + lyrics)
4. Lucinda Williams - Essence (un-censored)
(Canned Poo)
5. Lucinda Williams - Lafayette
6. John Prine - "Speed of the Sound of Loneliness" (Live)
(John Prine)


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Jonah Leffler

Last Updated: 07/16/2023

Views: 6051

Rating: 4.4 / 5 (65 voted)

Reviews: 88% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Jonah Leffler

Birthday: 1997-10-27

Address: 8987 Kieth Ports, Luettgenland, CT 54657-9808

Phone: +2611128251586

Job: Mining Supervisor

Hobby: Worldbuilding, Electronics, Amateur radio, Skiing, Cycling, Jogging, Taxidermy

Introduction: My name is Jonah Leffler, I am a determined, faithful, outstanding, inexpensive, cheerful, determined, smiling person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.